Sony NEX-7 at a glance:

  • 24.3-million-pixel Exmor APS-C HD CMOS sensor
  • Bionz processor
  • 2.359-million-dot XGA OLED electronic viewfinder
  • Sony E-mount
  • Sensor-shift stabilisation
  • Tilting 3in, 921,600-dot, TruBlack LCD
  • 10fps continuous shooting (speed priority)
  • 1080p HD
  • video capture
  • Street price £1,000 (body only)

When Sony bought Konica Minolta’s camera division in 2006, there was much speculation about the impact the acquisition would have on the DSLR market. On one hand, Sony is a large technology company and a leader in many fields, including broadcast video, and therefore had the investing power and potentially the know-how to create a class-leading range of DSLRs. On the other hand, it lacked any photographic heritage and would be challenging long-established brands with huge followings including serious professional user bases. To Sony’s credit, five years later the company has an impressive line-up of cameras and a significant market share.

However, the introduction of a new type of camera was always going to benefit the non-traditional manufacturers, and the fresh start meant playing fields were levelled. The compact system category has seen companies such as Panasonic and Sony come into their own, and this latest NEX model is the most highly specified we’ve seen to date. Although compact system cameras (CSCs) are principally aimed at those users upgrading from compacts, they have proved popular among DSLR owners either as a second body or a replacement for their current model.

The new NEX-7 is definitely aimed at the advanced user, with a class-leading 24-million-pixel sensor, a host of manual controls and a premium price tag. It is the first Sony NEX model to feature a viewfinder, and is the first non-DSLR-shaped CSC to incorporate one in the body. The camera’s specification makes it a viable replacement or even an upgrade for many DSLR users, while high-end DSLR users can retain an extremely high resolution and high degree of control in a smaller body for times when a large camera is not appropriate or possible.

The NEX-7 matches Sony’s latest high-end SLT (pellicle mirror) camera, sharing the same sensor and electronic viewfinder with the Alpha 77, which scored very highly when we tested it in AP 15 October. It will be interesting to see if, without the semi-translucent mirror and phase-detection AF, the NEX-7 offers an equally good performance.

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